Researchers engineer hair color alterations using ion beam technologies

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers engineer hair color alterations using ion beam technologies
Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) have taken a break from their normal subject focus of engineering and found a cosmetic application that can benefit from ion beam technology and alter hair color.

The research, published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, suggests individuals can alter their hair color and use a flatiron or hair straightener to press a new hair pattern.

The team from UNM and Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) explored a way to etch diffraction gratings on individual hairs to reflect light in a specific way.

UNM Mechanical Engineering professors Bruce C. Lamartine and Zayd C. Leseman collaborated on the use of focused ion beam technologies and the way they can be used to pattern different materials.


Having initially been deemed effective but too expensive and impractical, Leseman and Lamarine continued to look into using the technology to permanently change hair color and etch patterns onto the hair using a simple flatiron or hair straightener.

The pair are now looking at the possibility of developing a conditioner that can color and pattern the hair after using the product and then a hair straightener.

"The idea is to actually develop some kind of conditioner. Some kind of polymer coating for your hair, and then when you actually do the patterning with your flatiron that’s specially developed for this polymer coating, maybe low heat or something like that,”​ says Leseman.

“Then you could actually pattern the conditioner or the polymer on your hair first. And then it would easily wash out if you wanted it to go away, so that’s not as permanent and as scary."

Lamartine and Leseman are now looking for entrepreneurs or investors who see the potential in the technology, and there is still work to be done to develop a consumer product.

On the lookout

There is hope in this plan as their research has caught the eye of cosmetics manufacturers in the past.

Lamartine used to work at LANL and whilst there worked on non-chemical directional coloring of hair using milled or impressed nanopatterns.

The lab then provided funding before joining forces with UNM for focused ion beam (FIB) and related facilities, which saw Leseman and Lamartine exploring ion beam etching on single strands of human hair.

This research, carried out with the help of graduate students Khawar Abbas and Drew Goettler, caught the eye of Procter & Gamble which funded it with the particular interest on FIB nanopatterning on distinct types of hair.


Abbas, K. , Goettler, D. , Lamartine, B. and Leseman, Z. (2014) Nano-Patterning of Diffraction Gratings on Human Hair for Cosmetic Purposes. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications​, 4​, 173-178. doi: 10.4236/jcdsa.2014.43024​.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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